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How To Build A Strong Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Strategy In 2015

Jeff Shuck
January 14, 2015

If one thing became clear to us in 2014 it is that we live in a peer-to-peer world. We get our news from Facebook, decide where to eat based on Yelp, share our lives on Instagram, and experience parental inadequacy through Pinterest. The dramatic success of the Ice Bucket Challenge was the exclamation point on the end of a long sentence: peer-to-peer is now mainstream.

That means that peer-to-peer fundraising leaders will increasingly find that their constituents expect sophisticated sharing, social, and networking tools. We’re a long way past “ask three of your friends for a gift” – our constituents are often more aware of peer-to-peer tools than we are. In 2015, nonprofits will need to be more deliberate and more strategic in their efforts.

A few simple but powerful questions will form the core of successful programs in 2015 and get you on your way to leveraging your networks.

  • What does our audience look like?
  • Why are they engaging with our organization?
  • How can we better inspire them to engage their friends on our behalf?

Along with considering these questions, here are the four things every nonprofit should do in 2015 to create a strong peer-to-peer fundraising strategy:

1. Look to organic events for inspiration. Very often, the largest and most successful programs started not at headquarters but from volunteers in the field. The Ice Bucket Challenge was the latest in a long line of campaigns that surfaced directly from constituents. If your organization is searching for new ideas on experience, acquisition, or retention, you’ll likely find inspiration at the local level. 

2. Leverage – and recognize – all of the resources your constituents have to offer. Your constituents bring more than money to the table. Though fundraising is critical to the viability of nonprofit organizations, it isn’t the only component of support that leads to success. Your constituents’ skills, time, and networks are also valuable reservoirs of information, manpower, and public relations. Recognizing and soliciting these resources will improve your bottom line – and it will also establish trust with your donors by demonstrating that your relationship extends beyond the wallet.

3. Stop trying to recreate the Ice Bucket Challenge. Your constituents’ inboxes, walls, and news feeds are flooded with solicitations. As a result, they have developed finely tuned authenticity radars. It is impossible to replicate, manufacture, or plan authenticity ahead of time. The Ice Bucket Challenge was a truly bottom-up fundraising phenomenon, and everyone wanted a piece of the peer-to-peer golden child in 2014. Imitation Ice Buckets floundered then and will flounder in 2015 because they are, by definition, contrived. They will set off your constituents’ authenticity alarms. 

2015 is the time to let Ice Bucket Challenge lottery dreams go. You can't base your peer-to-peer fundraising strategy on the off-chance you may be the lucky recipient of a windfall of donations. Instead, turn the microscope around, focus on your mission, tell a compelling story, and focus on building long-term relationships instead of quick-fix money. 

4. Stop worrying about your walk. Worry about your mission impact instead. A few years ago, the space was shaken up by the rise of mud and obstacle events. A palpable sense of concern arose within organizations that had done well by the walk – they wondered if they would be left behind by the shiny new car on the event block. 

Over the last year, however, we found that pedestrian walks not only still dominated the landscape, compromising seven of the ten largest fundraising events, but most also realized increased revenue. The simplicity of a walk allows cause-focused constituents with significant fundraising power to rally specifically around your mission – not a fiery obstacle course. 

What matters more than ever, however, is the real silver bullet of fundraising: what you do with the money. What impact are you making in the world? Fundraising revenue is only a proxy for mission impact, so the real fundraising leaders will begin to realize that to do their jobs effectively they have to understand, assess, and be involved in the program delivery side of their nonprofit. 

Needless to say, it’s going to be an interesting year for peer-to-peer fundraising, and we can’t wait!

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